Review: In the Shadows – Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

Release Date: April 29th 2014
Published By: Scholastic Press
Pages: 384
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list
Purchase: Click here to purchase

Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis: From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

Review: I made it no secret that I was extremely excited about this book! I even spent hours trying to find a way to get my hands of this book while I was overseas (this a US title, and I was in Europe when it was released) but sadly I failed. But, on the upside, it was waiting for me in my mailbox when I arrived back home :)

If you are wondering why I was so excited, well, it was for two reasons. Firstly, I adore Kiersten White’s writing, and secondly, I am HUGE fan of Jim Di Bartolo. So this book, a collaboration of words by Kiersten and illustrations by Jim, resulted in some major fangirling! But to make it even better, this book was going to be different… it isn’t a novel with some illustrations, nor is it a graphic novel; it is a story with both text and art. The artwork was to tell a story in itself, and the text would tell another story. Some people may be confused or concerned by this concept, but I was ridiculously excited (see my post here). Not only did I have full faith in Kiersten’s ability to write a wonderful story, but I also knew that Jim had the talent to provide us with a full and rich story through his art.

Through words, Kiersten tells us the story of how after an encounter with a witch, Cora and Minnie find themselves without a father and a new mysterious relative named Arthur living with them. Meanwhile in New York, Thomas overhears a conversation between his tough, unmoveable father and a mystery person. His father sounds afraid, and all Thomas can decipher is it has to do with an unpaid debt and a sacrifice has to be made. He is unsure what the conversation was about, but before gets to find out, he and his brother Charles is shipped off to a boarding house in Maine, with the excuse that it will help Charles’ with his illness.

Thomas and Charles find themselves boarding with Cora and Minnie - and their shadow Arthur. It isn’t too long before strange things start occurring, and the boys find themselves unable to escape their family’s guilt, Arthur struggles to keep his secrets hidden, and the girls find themselves fighting for those they love.

Through powerful and striking art, Jim shows us a story of a man searching and chasing, looking for something, or someone, across the world and across a large span of time. The amazing detail in the artwork is filled with historical accuracy, beautiful representation of many places around the world and with characters whose emotion, desperation and determination leap off the page.

In this amazing full-coloured book you get to glide between the two stories being told - between words that flow beautifully to art that mesmerises you. Whether through the written word, or the amazingly beautiful illustrations, this is a story with depth, heart, great characters and an intriguing storyline.

Although I already knew that Jim is an incredibly gifted artist, I think he even outdone himself with In the Shadows. I have always been a fan of his artwork, and I have always respected his ability to encapsulate so much within one picture - but WOW! The art in this book is phenomenal! His ability to tell a powerful story without the use of a single word is astounding - the artwork is certainly beautiful in itself, but it is so much more than just pictures; it captures the emotion, the atmosphere, the power, the truth. If at all possible, I fell more in love with Jim’s art through this book.

And let’s not forget Kiersten’s ability to write a fantastic story as well! Her characters were well developed and interesting, and you quickly became attached to them. And even though the storyline was fast-pasted, her characters did not suffer for it and the plot remained strong. Kiersten’s writing is precise, filled with secrets, devotion, strength and courage.

The two stories are told independently of each other - and I think you must remember that when you read this book. This is not like other illustrated YA books that you might have read. The artwork is not there to support the story you are reading - they are two separate stories. These are two exciting and beautiful journeys: Kiersten’s written story provides us with wonderful characters who take us on exciting and heartbreaking journey while Jim’s astonishing art provides us with another story filled with mystery, determination and heartache. Finally, these two wonderful stories do intertwine to create a wonderful, heartfelt, beautiful and perfect conclusion.

In the Shadows is an experience! It is original. It is stunning - in art, in text, in concept. It is a powerful blend of words and art - and I cannot recommend it enough! Sadly this book has only been picked up in the US so far, so if you are outside the US you will not find it in a bookstore… but it is available at The Book Depository for those of you who would like to experience this wonderful, darkly intriguing, beautiful, full-colour journey of storytelling at it’s best!



“He’s always tried not to be seen. She’d always seen him”

“It is the sharpest, deepest cut of all isn’t it? I wouldn’t wish love on anyone. It carves a hole in you that can never be filled”

“At least my destruction is one of peace and rest. Unlike yours”

“It’s worth it to me”



Samples borrowed from Jim Di Bartolo’s site


What do you think?

  • Kristen says:

    Just finished this one yesterday and I completely agree! I will have to seek out where to find more of his art. I was completely enraptured by the story and even went back and watched the story told in illustrations for a second time after finishing the book.

    • Kristy says:

      This is one book I could go back to time and time again! It is amazing! I am so glad you enjoyed it as well!
      If you want more of Jim’s art, I highly recommend Lips Touch - amazing stories written by Laini Taylor, and stunning illustrations by Jim :)
      Kristy recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #81My Profile

  • Want this one so bad! I love books with two stories in them, and I love the idea that one of them is told through pictures. Great review, you just made me want it even more desperately!

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